Texas is experiencing a rapid surge in economic activity, population growth and infrastructure needs. That growth has meant new oil and gas pipelines, large diameter water pipelines, roads, railways and high-voltage-power lines all across the state. But to obtain the land from property owners, pipeline companies, government agencies and electric-transmission companies rely on the power of eminent domain and the condemnation process.
Eminent domain is the power of the government to take a landowner’s property for a public purpose. Condemnation is the process by which a landowner’s property is taken. Property owners have a constitutional right to just compensation under the constitutions of both Texas and the United States. After the abuse of eminent domain in Kelo v. City of New London, 545 U.S. 469 (2005), substantial reform efforts have been attempted by landowner groups throughout the country and Texas. During the 86th Texas Legislature (2019), Texas once again failed to pass meaningful eminent-domain reform for the third straight legislative session. The proposed reform bills, Senate Bill 421 and House Bill 991, were watered down after coming out of the House Committee. As a result, Sen. Lois Kolkhorst, R-Brenham, and other supporters of the reform efforts were left unable to support the weakened bills, instead holding out for meaningful change. How did we get here?
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